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Explosion in the Sky: Rich and Real

Observer Scene | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Stepan Center is not exactly the ideal spot for a concert. Not only is it acoustically stifling, but also reminiscent of chemistry related events, including dreaded Organic Chemistry exams. Additionally, it takes a bit of a hike from civilization to reach the complex. Nonetheless, on Friday night the lights came up on Stepan Center when Jack’s Mannequin took the stage.

Jack’s Mannequin’s Andy McMahon was a member of Something Corporate before writing his own songs while the band was taking a break. His songs from the hiatus became the first and only album of the newly formed Jack’s Mannequin, “Everything in Transit.” The album has slowly gained a wide following, and a new one is expected soon.

The real story behind Jack’s Mannequin is unusual for a band riding the punk-pop wave. After the album was recorded in 2005, the band was ready to go on tour to promote it. Just before the tour, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His little sister was the marrow donor, and he made a full recovery. They are now touring and will eventually end up on the Warp Tour circuit.

The set was typical, except for the large black grand piano center stage. No opening band in sight, Andy McMahon and his crew bounded onto the set at around 9:15. Bursting into the opening chords of “Dark Blue,” the cacophonic ride of lights and sounds took off from there. Drums, bass, guitar and piano managed to create a sound full enough to elevate the crowd to euphoria.

The crowd stood on its feet the whole time as different people sang along with different snippets of songs. Though few people know the album by heart, many people have heard their songs and were able to get into it along with McMahon.

The artist spent the evening banging on the piano. He felt the music to the point that he appeared almost paralyzed at moments. McMahon never sat, but hunched over the keys and sang into the mic with his head turned toward the audience. It was almost existential to watch him completely living within the sound of his own music.

Most of the songs from “Everything in Transit” were performed. Near the end of the evening, McMahon sat calmly at his keys and played a more introspective song off the album yet to be released.

The band played for an hour and 20 minutes, including one encore. When they left the stage the second time they ignored the crowd’s cry for another song, leaving the audience to mistakenly cheer the roadies as the lights came up. The evening was generally deemed a success by everyone. The energy that had been buzzing for an hour and a half was carried out into the night as students walked home under the stars.